Most of the time we think we're sick, it's all in the mind.

THOMAS WOLFE (1900-38)


Symptoms of lovesickness, according to 16th century wisdom, include sunken eyes, jaundice and anorexia.

Faking It

The 'Malingerer's Guide' was a document dropped on Allied soldiers in Italy in 1944. It was disguised as a book of matches but actually contained a tightly-folded sheet of propaganda encouraging soldiers to fake illness and giving them step-by-step instructions on how to reproduce the symptoms.
As it said, 'Nobody can say that as a good soldier you haven't done your duty. But no man in the world will ever blame you for not wishing to be one of its [the war's] last victims...Try the safe turn during these last few weeks, it is far better for you to be a few weeks ill than all your life dead.'
It advises men faking heart disease to 'Smoke 20 to 30 cigarettes per day. But if you normally smoke as much, then you might double that number.' The pamphlet advises, a man must: 1) act as if he hated to be ill, 2) stick to one set of symptoms, and 3) 'Don't tell the doctor too much!'
The British Army retaliated in kind. The Political Warfare Executive, under Denis Sefton Delmer, was responsible for ‘Black Propaganda’, the effort to disrupt the enemy’s morale. Hoping to appeal to the 'inner Schweinhund' of the German mind, he produced ingenious manuals with step-by-step instructions to fake a wide range of illnesses and ailments from a simple throat infection to a life-threatening disease such as tuberculosis.
These manuals were produced in a wide range of disguises: from a German navy manual of sports hints to a ballistics manual and a soldiers’ Catholic Hymn book. Each started off normally and then, a few pages in, diverted into how to take a sicky. Delmer also produced a Malingerer's Kit containing some of the items needed to fake illness: a tiny gelatine capsule of turpentine, a little explosive picric acid, a few squares of dried foxglove leaves, etc, plus a set of instructions. The whole lot could be concealed in what appeared to be a bag of sweets.
Delmer's second objective was to make the German High Command suspicious of their own troops when they were genuinely ill. With any luck, they would accuse genuinely ill people of malingering and increase friction in the army. So it's possible that the army sent ill men back to the front, thereby annoying their own soldiers and possibly spreading disease.

CASKIE STINETT (1911-1998)

The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.

How to Fake TB 

In the 1960s some schoolboys believed that they could make themselves pass out through loss of blood by sticking wet blotting paper down their socks. It never worked, but these days schoolchildren benefit from the many more practical suggestions suggested by online malingering tip sites. We present a selection below:

  • Apply a small amount of toothpaste onto your bottom eyelids (so that it's near but not in your eyes) to make your eyes watery.
  • Make fake vomit and pour it in the toilet while you pretend to throw up. If you're at school, you can bring the fake vomit with you, though you risk getting caught with it. If you're at work, no one should want to see your fake vomit anyway.
  • Rub your hands quickly and repeatedly against your face. The friction will raise your temperature and give your face a flushed and red look.
  • Scream at the top of your lungs when no one’s home to give yourself a sore throat.
  • Lick your hands to create that 'clammy' feel.
  • Snort water up your nose to give the effect of a cold as your sinuses swell up. This does not last long.
  • Use make up to your advantage. A foundation a couple of shades lighter than your normal skin tone will have a great affect. If you don’t have foundation then use a light dusting of unscented talcum powder.

There's a condition called hebephrenia ('young mind'), one of the symptoms of which is that one becomes a ceaseless joker.

The word 'iatrogenic' means 'caused by a doctor'. It is used to describe illness induced by medical diagnosis.

W.C. FIELDS (1880-1946)

My illness is due to my doctor's insistence that I drink milk, a whitish fluid they force down helpless babies.

Until the 16th century, lovesickness was thought of as a uniquely male disease.

Since her death, Florence Nightingale has been accused of malingering, strategic invalidism, hypochondria and neurotic lesbianism.